Caretaker pleads guilty to embezzlement

Tammy Lynn Atkins, the Washington woman hired to care for an ailing former mayor of Washington in 2011, pleaded guilty to six felony counts of embezzlement Thursday morning (June 6) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court.

The 42-year-old Atkins was hired in 2011 by Clarissa Leggett to care for Leggett and her ailing husband, former mayor and longtime Washington resident Eugene Leggett, who died June 8, 2012. Atkins was originally charged with 10 counts of felony embezzlement but four of those charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement reached before court Thursday morning.

Summarizing evidence for the court, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff said that Atkins was hired by Leggett for a number of duties, which included opening mail, cleaning the house and paying the bills. As part of her employment, Goff said, Atkins received access to Clarissa Leggett’s checkbook, which further enabled her to access Leggett’s bank accounts and ATM card.

Goff said that Atkins began accessing Leggett’s accounts without her permission in January, 2012, stealing funds every month through June – $1,000 in February, $1,250 in March, $650 in April, $800 in May and $2,700 in June.

Eventually, Goff said family members noticed the constant activity with the accounts and reported the discrepancy to the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office. Goff said RCSO investigator J.C. Welch interviewed Atkins last fall, where she confessed to stealing the money in an effort to help pay off her mortgage, which she claimed she was three months behind on.

Atkins had previously been released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond, which Goff asked Judge Jeffrey Parker to revoke in light of her guilty plea and the sheer number of charges. “This is not the first time she’s been accused of thievery . . . I believe she has a great risk of reoffending.”

Amanda Zadrozny, Atkins’ defense council, implored Parker to allow Atkins to remain free, pointing out that Atkins brought a $2,000 cashier’s check to court Thursday morning to begin the restitution process.

Zadrozny also produced letters from Atkins’ current employers, many “members of the community,” indicating their “full knowledge” of her felony charges and their willingness to continue employing her. Zadrozny added that Atkins had a doctor’s appointment to attend in July to determine whether she suffers from bipolar disorder.

Parker agreed with Goff’s arguments, however, revoking Atkins’ bond and remanding her into custody at Rappahannock County Jail, a decision which reduced Atkins to tears.

Atkins’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27. Each embezzlement charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and would be run consecutively, meaning Atkins faces up to 120 years in prison.